How to create the best mobile app for kids

It is not uncommon in today’s society for a child to utilize a smartphone, moreover possess their own personal device. Even children at the mere age of 2-years-old have demonstrated that they can navigate the basic functions of a smartphone. Along with the growth of mobile, the market of mobile apps for kids has without a doubt become a massive, successful business.

However, just because the audience is younger/more “naïve” in comparison to adults, does not mean that you will not encounter challenges when testing and preparing your app.

Here are some important tips to keep in mind (for both app developers and QA analysts) when you create and prepare your app for this special demographic.

Target an Age Range

Inherently, a three-year-old’s interests and knowledge is quite different from that of a seven-year-old’s. For reference, the App store recognizes these essential differences, and thus has the “Kids” section divided into three age groups: Kids 5 years and younger, Kids 6–8, and Kids 9–11. When it comes to developing and testing your app for a specific age range, you must be even more specific and also wear the hat of a “developmental psychologist”. Comprehensive research must be conducted and utilized regarding their developmental stage. You must ask yourself: At what cognitive, social, and moral level is my target age range?

A child’s fine motor skills are also an important aspect to consider when fine-tuning your app. For example- a four-year-old’s range of fine motor skills are a lot less compared to a six-year-old. The action of “pinch and hold” and utilizing multiple fingers at once would essentially be a confusing challenge for a four-year-old and ultimate reduce your UX. You must also make sure that you include effective, understandable navigation/pagination. Whether you select arrows, swipe gestures or page folds, the user must ultimately be able to proceed to other sections/levels of your app.

Furthermore, the child’s reading level must be considered. For instance, how much text, if any, is necessary to explain a certain function of your app? Comprehension might be easier for a certain age if functions/tools were denoted via symbols, audio prompting, or instructional videos.

Disney Princess Palace Pets uses images to represent functions.

Unique Behavior

When it comes to mobile apps for kids, you must think outside the box of standard app behavior. Notably, children (from a wide range of ages) tend to have shorter attention spans compared to adults and also enjoy the opportunity to personalize and create. Let’s say you are testing an app for adults and you notice the users quickly opened different sections of the app and then closed it. This might cause you to worry that your app is lacking a certain level of satisfaction and/or intrigue for your audience. Yet, when a child demonstrates this same behavior, it can have an entirely different meaning. The child could have simply become distracted by something physical or mental and thus decided to close the app. In the case of children, usage length does not always directly mean success.

Despite the fact that a child’s attention span is an innate quality, you can certainly help increase engagement and satisfaction with your app if you intertwine elements of personalization. Whether you are a storytelling app or a racing game, any opportunity a child has to create and/or personalize within your app is an added bonus. The options are endless- from naming and dressing their in-app character to inserting their own photographs as a background on a game level.

Toonia Colorbook caters to personalization.

Consider the Parents

Parents are typically the ones to decide whether or not their child can download your app in the first place. Thus, if you make it too easy for kids to spend their parents’ money (e.g. trick a child into buying “smurfberries” or a wardrobe for an animated cat), parents will become angry, like Kanye West did, and most likely be the ones to also remove your app from their device. Some parents avoid freemium apps altogether.

You should also steer clear of overloading your app with ads. Again, this could make parents presume that your app has bad intentions. Moreover, children do not have the patience for lengthy full page advertisements and they can struggle to successfully exit out of advertisements resulting in unnecessary frustration.

Due to the fact that the parents are the decision makers when it comes to the download, it is also worthwhile to consider creating an app that supports cooperative/collaborative interactions amongst parent and child. This can assist in fortifying the parent’s satisfaction and contentment with the app, ultimately reassuring that they made the right choice to install your app.

Smurf’s Village in-app purchase page.

Utilize UX app Analytics Tools For Testing

Children make fantastic beta testers. They are blunt, insightful straight shooters, and can help you approach the app from their unique level of understanding. However kids are not like adults and should not be expected to thoroughly fill out feedback forms and answer notifications within your app. Depending on their age, it can also be difficult for them to express in words how they feel about your app. This is where UX app analytics tools comes into play. Using such tools to ensure that you see every in app movement and action from the second the child opens the app. Via user recordings, touch heat maps, and UI analysis reports, you can gain a wealth of information as to which elements of your app are intelligible for your user and which cause confusion and dissatisfaction. Furthermore, you will better understand how to optimize for your target audience.

In Conclusion

Developing and testing mobile apps for kids is anything but easy. There are multiple facets to consider from age-appropriateness to parental input, and then on top of that you must make sure the basic graphics are appealing and relevant. Despite these challenges, you have the ability to further your chances of success by ingraining and recalling this fundamental guideline.


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